Christmas Traditions of Venezuela
The South American country of Venezuela is predominately Catholic, meaning that a great deal of importance is placed on the celebration of Christmas. In fact, it is the main holiday in the country when family and friends gather together for fun, food, and fellowship. With such a high respect for the holiday, it is not surprising that Christmas actually spans from December 16th until January 6th. The first week of the celebration is mainly for religious services which hold mass daily from the 16th until Christmas Eve which is called “Noche Buena” in Spanish. On Noche Buena, families gather together to have a holiday feast of a long bread filled with raisins and ham known as “pan de jamon” and a chilled dessert of green papaya and brown sugar called “dulce de lechoza.” Music is important to these celebrations as much as the traditional foods. However, instead of singing “carols,” the songs are known as “aquinaldos.”
Venezuelan children wake up on Christmas morning to find presents around the Nacimiento (their version of a Christmas tree). However, instead of the American version of Santa Claus, the children in Venezuela believe that the gifts were brought to the by the Christ Child himself on this special morning. The official closing of Christmas festivities takes place on the Day of Reyes Magos which is held on January 6th. It is the day that specifically celebrates the three wise men who visited infant Jesus and Mary, and the children of Venezuela once again receive presents of small toys and candies in honor of the gifts brought by the wise kings.